Edinburgh's shocking homelessness figures are an emergency, but the SNP doesn't seem interested – Miles Briggs

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At the end of last year, I wrote a column in the Evening News calling on SNP-Green ministers to declare a homeless emergency in the Capital.

Figures released this week demonstrated how the crisis in Edinburgh is only getting worse. Nowhere else in Scotland has the number of homelessness applications risen faster. From the start of 2022 to the end of September, there were 3,130 applications – an increase of 918, or 42 per cent, compared to the same period in 2021.

In my previous column, I wrote about the cross-party commitment to ending homelessness over this current parliament, by 2026. But this pledge, which all parties support, has had little to no follow-through by SNP and Green ministers, despite rising numbers across Scotland.

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In Edinburgh, we're seeing record homelessness applications with 6,198 in the three months to 31 September. To end this problem in Scotland, we urgently need to develop houses for people who are registered as homeless, whilst preventing people from getting into that situation in the first place.

The reality is that people are registering as homeless at a much faster pace than houses are being supplied. Under the current system, people have to register before they are provided with any support. By this point, it is often too late and not much can be done to stop that household from losing their home. What I want to see is support provided well in advance, up to six months before a person is at risk of going onto the register.

Since the SNP government took office, it has failed to meet all of its home-building targets. There is little hope of the situation improving, given that John Swinney’s most recent budget outlined an additional £170 million cut in the housing budget. Shelter Scotland said: “We are deeply concerned at the significant 16 per cent cut to the housing budget in 2023/24, which has the potential to completely derail the Scottish Government’s ability to reduce housing need in this parliamentary term.”

Homes for Scotland has calculated that there has been an accumulated shortfall of more than 110,000 new houses since 2007. We urgently need to see more built and policies to improve delivery.

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Last week the Scottish Conservatives brought a homelessness and a housing debate to Holyrood. It’s shocking and utterly heart-breaking that so many children are living in temporary accommodation. What is more concerning is the fact that Shona Robison and the Scottish Government have few to no answers about the situation facing families in the Capital.

Levels of homelessness justify declaring an emergency (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)Levels of homelessness justify declaring an emergency (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)
Levels of homelessness justify declaring an emergency (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest figures for Edinburgh show that 2,475 children are living in temporary accommodation – a quarter of the total figure for Scotland. SNP ministers have been in government for almost 16 years, during which time the number of children without a home in the Capital has increased dramatically.

We now see a situation where almost six times more children are living in temporary accommodation in the Capital compared to ten years ago. Shona Robison has admitted that the current situation in Edinburgh is unacceptable, but refuses to take any direct action.

If this week’s homelessness figures do not constitute an emergency, then I don’t know what does.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian

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